Carly Telford column: “I don’t care whether I have one touch or 100 touches as long as we win and I keep a clean sheet.”

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Lionesses goalkeeper Carly Telford got a win and a clean sheet in her first ever major tournament game 12 years after her first selection for a World Cup.  She shares with us how her starting position came to be in France, what it means to her, and how the team is preparing for their last Group D match v Japan.

Ready to rumble

I found out I would be playing against Argentina two days before matchday, that’s when we get told internally. There wasn’t any kind of heads up earlier or before the tournament started. I didn’t know whether I was going to play any part in the World Cup at all, my name just came up on the board in the team line-up and that was it – ready to rumble!

It was exciting. You never know, Phil’s unpredictable and it’s never the same team. It meant that there was always a little bit of hope that you’d get an opportunity but we’re in tournament mode now and winning games is the most important thing. He has to go with what he thinks is best, to see my name was exciting though, I’m not going to lie.

I didn’t tell anyone straight away. I put it on our family chat and my sister rang straight away. She was like ‘oh my God, I can’t believe it’ and I said ‘this is exactly why I didn’t tell you straight away!’ I just wanted it to be treated as a normal game because the more normal it feels the better.

There were a lot of things surrounding the game because we knew if we won we would qualify for the last-16. I kept it quiet, it was going to be my debut in a major tournament and I had to try and get my dad up from Nice to Le Havre to watch the game, while also knowing my mum wouldn’t be there when I finally made my debut.

Moment of a lifetime

I didn’t want anyone revving me up about how amazing and emotional it was going to be, I just wanted to keep it as normal as I could, do my job and worry about all that stuff afterwards.

It was nice in a way to not have a lot to do but I was ready if I had to. Someone said that I walked out with a massive smile on my face. It was because I’d genuinely waited my whole life for that moment. In the warm up I felt really good and if I’d been called upon at any point I’d have been ready.

We didn’t really know what Argentina were going to bring. They had a couple of dangerous players up top and I didn’t end up with a lot to do but I did have to make sure my back four were always organised and it was nice to see the girls put in a strong performance and go out and get the win.

I don’t care whether I have one touch or 100 touches as long as we win and I keep a clean sheet. I can’t ask the defenders to stop defending just so I can have something to do! I did make one save and had a couple of punches, she smashed it straight at me from the edge of the box and we basically scored from the only attack they had.

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Teams are coached better now, they’re more engaged in what they do and they’re better prepared to sit back and frustrate you. If teams like Argentina can nick points like they did against Japan they can qualify, we did it a lot against Canada in 2015 when we were 2-1 up, we sat on the edge of the box, defended for our lives and counter attacked when we could.

Tournament momentum

I don’t think you can look at any team as a front runner except arguably the USA, but have they been tested yet? We played two teams who are ranked lower than us but Scotland have some great players and they’ve got players playing in top teams around England.

Games aren’t going to be as simple as they used to be in tournaments. You’re not going to go through this tournament with an easy nine points where it’s perfect every time. We have to make sure we capitalise when we’re on top and I’m not sure what people feel a perfect England performance actually is. As long as we get three points, ultimately that’s the most important thing in tournaments.

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If we lift the trophy in three weeks time nobody is going to be talking about a 20-minute spell against Scotland or Argentina. We’re learning along the way about how to deal with those awkward patches and making them less relevant with every game.

We’ll have to see different sides to this England team as the games get harder. It’s all about momentum, we’ve got Phil Neville as a manager, do you think he’s going to sit there and discuss coming second in the group? I don’t even know how you mentality prepare for anything other than a win. You have to gather momentum in a tournament and the only way to do that is to go out and win as many games as you can.

Team growth

We’re playing Japan and you can’t forget the journey that got us to the 2015 bronze medal and the events surrounding it, but we’ve got to remember that the semi final defeat to Japan was one of our best performances in that tournament and it was against one of the best sides in the world.

We’ve grown a lot since that World Cup and if you look at the performances at SheBelieves Cup and the style we play, it’s completely different to 2015, we’ve evolved again and it’s now about putting in that performance that’s going to get us the win.

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We remember the past and we respect the journey of those players and those of us that were part of it. It’s nice to see some of those girls up in the commentary box with us and willing us to do well because they were part of this journey.

Four years is a long time and a lot can change. They’ve had a massive transition and so have we, I think it will be a different game from 2015, it will be two very good teams and there’s more pressure on them as they have to win, I think they’ll come out and attack a bit more.

Downtime and relaxation

The staff try and keep things lively for us. These late kick offs are a killer but I’m not going to complain about being in a place like Nice. It’s nice being able to relax on the balcony, we’ve been blessed with some of the hotels we’ve stayed in and the facilities we’ve had access to.

Some of us have gone hunting for coffee shops but we haven’t had a lot of time around travel, training and games. There’s so much focus on the games so a lot of our downtime is focused on relaxing and Phil is big on making sure we have time to go and see family and friends. When you play football or are involved football then it’s just all about the coffee, we rely on that.

Serena Williams is staying at our hotel and we watched her train this morning which was unbelievable. Mike Tyson is here as well. Serena is on mine and Jill’s corridor and Mike is the other side of the corridor, what are the chances?

I was in the gym with her and her coaches this morning, just chatting. It’s a bit mad, you’re stood there in awe. Her husband and daughter are here too. She’s just here preparing for Wimbledon I guess, they’ve got about 40 tennis courts here, it’s a massive resort so it’s a great place for her to be.

I don’t watch Love Island but a lot of the girls have been watching it. I’ve watched a lot of the other games going on. A lot of us play with other international players at club level so it’s nice to see them doing well and it’s actually been a really good and controversial tournament so far. It’s been quite fun to watch and realise you’re a part of it too. So many people are now watching and every day I’ve heard people talking about it and that’s the effect we’re all having, which is really nice to know.

Follow Carly on Twitter @carlytelford1

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